Monday 1 February 2016

Movie review: The Big Short

[Post published by Liviu, on Liviu's [Personal] Blog]

Nota bene: for other movie reviews, click for the dedicated page with movie reviews.

The Big Short (2015)

[official site; IMDB]

Well, it's different from what you've watched until now, because it intertwines 2 types of video content:
  • the regular movie that one watches at the cinema
  • (some sort of) a documentary explaining financial concepts

Or one might imagine it as the regular movie with documentary insertions from now and then.

Anyway, we need to review each of them, right?

The Big Short: the regular movie

It’s basically a combination of several movies, borrowing the best from each of them:
  • Margin Call (2011) [IMDB] - for the feelings & attitude the characters in the heart of the system experience: “panic”, situation analysis & seriousness, whistle blowing desire
  • Wall Street (1987) [IMDB] - for the desire of making money, for the leadership & winning against everyone else playing the same game
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) [IMDB] - for the humour, for the “screw you, I wanna get rich!” attitude, for the style of narrating the story directly to the audience from now and then

I totally love Christian Bale's Dr. Burry character and Ryan Gosling's Jared Vennett. They feel right. Strong attitude, strong desire to win and make money.

5 Oscar nominations [en.wikipedia]:
  • I'd like Christian Bale to win Best Supporting Actor, although Ryan Gosling deserves it as much.
  • Best Picture vs. Best Adapted Screenplay? Well, the story unravels and is presented somewhat differently from what we've been used with so far (e.g. some of the actors turn to the camera and talk directly to the audience), so it might win one of these...

If you ask me, The Wolf of Wall Street is better / more entertaining than The Big Short, so The Wolf deserves an Oscar more, but The Wolf hails the bad / greedy guy, while The Big Short takes on Wall Street and defends the poor-and-fooled-by-the-big-bad-Wall-Street people... so the Academy is kind of forced to award it something...

Nota bene: do not even think it has anything in common with the failed Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) [IMDB], ok?

The Big Short: the documentary parts

They try explaining the financial concepts... must emphasize: they _try_ :)) But it's only an incomplete bullshit, which does not make sense at all! Really! Just like they state in the movie that Wall Street invents all these terms to make one feel stupid... well, they do the same to make the audience think they are smart :))

Financial concepts roadmap, my opinion:
  1. At first, they should have explained why & how the derivatives market [en.wikipedia] has originally been designed, e.g. to mitigate risks, to make the market more stable etc.
  2. Then get into the basic concepts: futures contracts [en.wikipedia], options [en.wikipedia], swaps [en.wikipedia].
  3. Optional: explain why & how derivatives can be exchanged through the Exchange vs. Over-the-counter.
  4. Then get into CDS [en.wikipedia], which have been used since 1994 (according to wikipedia).
  5. Then how various tradable financial assets (derivatives, stocks, currencies, debt etc.) may be packed together...
  6. Then CDO [en.wikipedia].
  7. Then how derivatives can become toxic when turned into "bets" by speculators... but that's a different story.

But that's a lot of explaining to do, mate! - Indeed it is, but do you really want to understand it, mate? or just pretend you get it? Oh, don't worry, during those 25-35 years that it takes to pay the mortgage, you'll definitely find the time to learn it! :D

Indeed, the derivatives market is so big... The part starring Selena Gomez is the only one I agree with since it is almost accurate regarding explaining a financial concept.

=> Let me explain to you why/how the derivatives market is so big: several players actually play a football game on the field, BUT there may be [hundreds of] thousands of entities betting on that result (through bet agencies, online bets, casinos, private bets etc.) + have you noticed how many types of bets there are? Now you get it? Now compute the money paid to all on the field for playing that game vs. the money all those entities are betting. Now you get it?

Nota bene: for several months starting at the end of August 2013 I have learned a tiny bit about how financial markets work in general, and basic derivatives (futures, options, swaps) in particular, so my knowledge & understanding is very-very limited on this and I know enough to understand the complexity and how stupid I am with respect to financial-everything :) But it's so beautiful, really! Financial markets are like distributed systems + a lot of randomness :))

As a side note, I have this feeling that the documentary parts resemble Adam Ruins Everything [en.wikipedia], of which I have become a youtube fan in the past months.


Great regular movie, worth watching, time well spent.
Please do watch the other movies I've referenced in the review!

Incomplete & Bullshit documentary parts.

Thanks for reading.

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